Why families do what they do and why it's good
Family traditions define who we are and where we came from. From the simple Friday night pizza party in the living room to the elaborate wedding celebration, family traditions are the bedrock of society -- bringing order and predictability into our lives and emotionally nourishing us by building bonds with family both near and far. They make the mundane and everyday special, and they make the special occasions and milestones even more meaningful.
Holidays and family celebrations like weddings are catalysts for inspiring traditions. Traditions handed down over the generations, as well as new traditions, are all part of the mix. Most Americans know the tradition of "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue," but what about weaving in wedding traditions based on your or your spouse's heritage?
In Germany guests lay fir boughs in front of you as you leave the ceremony, to pave your way with hope, luck, and fertility. In a few regions in Italy, the couple shatters a vase or glass into many pieces. The number of pieces represented the expected number of years they'll be happily married to one another. Many Web sites explain different ethnic traditions. These and others can supply ideas to enhance your ceremony, tying one generation to another.
"I think people need traditions more now than ever," says Dr. Susan A. Lieberman, of Rice University in Houston, Texas, and author of "Family Traditions: Redefining Celebrations For Today's Family." "The world is changing so rapidly now, and traditions give us an anchor. Traditions make you feel good as a family. These indelible memories bring character and texture to our lives."
Modern Woodmen of America, a fraternal benefit society offering financial services, created a Web resource, www.gatherings.info., which offers tips for creating traditions and encouraging family gatherings. The organization's survey of 500 Americans discovered that people are most likely to attend family events that celebrate tradition.
"Celebrating family, holidays and major life events all rank high on the list of why Americans feel it is important to gather together," says Modern Woodmen's Sharon Snawerdt. "In fact, 87 percent of Americans say they attend family gatherings simply because the gatherings themselves are a family tradition."
What about developing traditions after you're married? Try some of these or let them be your inspiration to create your own.
* Purchase a guest registry book for your new home and every time you have guests (friends and family too) have them sign and date. Include the purpose of the visit when special events arise.
* Plant shrubs or trees each year on your anniversary or for the birth of a child.
* Before you and your spouse leave for work, take a minute to say goodbye and state something you are grateful for about the other person.
* Celebrate the anniversary of the day you moved into your first home together by purchasing a special item that could be handed down to your children someday.
* During the holidays consider starting your own tradition of sponsoring a needy family.
* Not everyone gets the holidays off, so why not take baked items or part of your holiday meal to the local police station, fire station, or hospital?
* Many people live too far away to get back home for any holiday. Create an annual gathering, and invite friends who are in this situation. Buy a simple cheesecloth tablecloth and fabric markers. Drape it over your table and have guests write their name, the date and what they are thankful for this year. Each year everyone can reminisce about the year and what has happened since.
"Always remember to honor the spirit behind your traditions," concludes Lieberman. "You can describe building new traditions as unraveling the old and weaving new with the same threads. The whole value of traditions is to give pleasure and joy and make us closer to those we love."
For more great ideas for family traditions and planning family gatherings, visit www.gatherings.info.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Source Information: ARA Content, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2004.
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